At home for the holidays: Where to stay, rent and buy in Lahinch

Golf and surfing ensure the Co Clare seaside town attracts visitors from all over the world

 

This seaside resort with a Blue Flag beach comes alive in summer. The draw is two fold: its world-class golf and swell surfing.  

Lahinch has been luring golfers to this part of the world since 1892 when feathers and sticks were used to mark the course at Lahinch Golf Club, explains general manager Paddy Keane. With its undulating dunes reimagined by several notable golf architects, its hollows and contours are at one with nature creating what Greg Allen, RTÉ’s golf correspondent, describes as “a heavenly piece of golf territory”.

Often ranked in lists of the world’s top 50 courses, and consistently ranking in the top five golf courses on the island of Ireland, it compares itself to St Andrew's in Scotland because it is situated in the town itself, creating what Allen says is “a very special vibe” between its two holidaymaking tribes; the golfers, of which 75 per cent hail from the US and Canada, and the relative newcomers, the surfer citizens. 

Surfing is now big business with Lahinch the number one destination in Ireland for beginners, according to John McCarthy of Lahinch Surf School. He was one of those to see the resort’s potential, setting up his business in 2001, which was more than a decade after Tom and Rosemary Buckley opened Lahinch Surf Shop as the first surf business in Ireland.

“It is the shape of the bay and the fact that there is sand underfoot for a few miles that slows down the Atlantic swell to deliver gentle waves,” McCarthy explains.

There are now five different surf schools plying their trade along the 2km-wide strand. “Because the beach is in the middle of the town you can watch surfers from the promenade. It’s an urbane set-up, like San Sebastian in north Spain, but on a far smaller scale.” This is a sport in its own right with those not brave enough to weather the waves enjoying a coffee and an ice cream while their loved ones tumble and fall.  

Lahinch is drawing surf-mad families west in search of a better work-life balance. Clareman Dexter McCullough, who runs Lahinch Surf Experience, knows of three separate clans that made the move to be beside the waves. James Cloney recently uprooted his kin from Curraghcloe in Wexford. He was fed up being a slave to the tides, as he put it, making the almost four-hour journey west weekly so that his 11-year-old son can continue to participate in competitions. Having rented out their Wexford home the family-of-four is currently renting but contemplating buying a site and building here – if they can get planning.

The seaside town made national headlines back in 2014 when it was battered by storms and the seafront was drowned by waves. The council has repaired the damage and installed rock armour. While many believe the protective rock structure has spoiled the look of the resort the upside it that in doing the repairs there is now access to the beach for surfers – even at high tide. “On a busy day you can see as many as 60 people in water,” says one local.

The golfers keep coming – after all the town was practically built around the course and offers a total of 36 holes to play, but Dexter McCullagh of Lahinch Surf Experience estimates the ratio of surfers to golfers is now 3:1. Whatever the real numbers there has been an unofficial push to christen the golf mecca with the moniker “Surfcity” with the title appearing on signs and vexing the council.

The town’s already had one identity crisis. For the last five years the new road signs in the Co Clare resort list it as “Lehinch” but residents still prefer Lahinch with some locals taking the matter of the vowel change into their own hands earlier this year, correcting the ‘e’ spelling on a number of signs; a move later reversed by the council. The linguistic shenanigans has become so contentious that it may yet be put to a vote. But whichever spelling wins the vote the town will continue to draw activists looking for a real Irish holiday experience.

What’s on offer rental wise?

Rusheen Cottage, available through Hogans Irish Cottages, is a cute thatched abode with a stone exterior and a modernised interior less than a mile from the main drag. The three-bedroom house sleeps six. A week’s rental in August 2018 will be from €748 for seven nights.

MacKenzie Lodge is an architecturally designed property perfectly positioned to enjoy Lahinch’s two favourite pursuits. It is situated just 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean and only 50 yards from the entrance to Lahinch’s golf links course and is named after one of the designers of the course, Dr Alister MacKenzie.

Available to rent through Dream Ireland and sleeping up to eight people, it has availability during the last two weeks of August, the weeks beginning Saturday the 19th and Saturday the 26th when the property respectively costs €1,250, reduced from an original weekly price of €1,700, and €1,150, down from the same asking price.

Moy House, the local landlord’s summer house, is probably the most luxurious and best positioned property in which to enjoy the sun setting. Run by Anton O’Looney, who also runs O’Looneys on the prom, he is the third generation of his family to offer hospitality in the resort. Situated about three miles outside the town, an overnight stay costs from €185 in this Blue Book property. The five-course tasting menu features beef, lamb, free-range pork and eggs from the hotel’s own farm and its own seasonally-grown fruit and vegetables.

hogansirishcottages.com, dreamireland.com, moyhouse.com

And if you fall in love and want to buy, what’s for sale?

The smart holiday house hunter wants a house that is located in the village so the kids can walk to all the amenities, reducing your need to taxi them from A to B.

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom semi in Summercove that is painted a sea blue shade is asking €150,000 through agents Vaughan Hannon. Agents SherryFitzGerald McMahon is selling 16 Ocean View, a four-bedroom, A-frame detached property for €159,000 while the same agent is selling 12 Lios na Mara, a three-bedroom semi, with all its contents, for €139,000. For the time that you’re not there it is worth noting that centrally located three-bedroom properties rent from about €90 per night on AirBnB.

sherryfitz.ie, vaughanhannon.ie, airbnb.ie

Where to eat, where to have a coffee, ice-cream etc

The terrace at O’Looney’s Bar & Restaurant is the place to commune with the wild Atlantic waves and the wind. Randaddy’s is the best place to get a pizza and also offers other international staples like baby back ribs, chicken wings and burgers. Vaughan Lodge specialises in local produce like Liscannor Bay crab, St Tola goat cheese from outside Ennistymon, and langoustines, John Dory and Monkfish from Carrigaholt, on the south side of Loop Head.

Seafood fans should also check out Barrtra is a 13-minuted drive south. Ask for the surprise menu.  

Adults are dragged kicking and screaming into the marshmallow pink and white painted O’Connor’s Ice Cream shop. Situated on the prom this store serves 99s as well as more than 20 flavours of scoop ice-cream, some of which are supplied by Eldorado in Kilrush.

Kid heaven, the shop also sells milk shakes that can be made to order using chocolate bars or from any of its ice-cream flavours. There is a small counter area to sit at but time spent here may only force unsuspecting parents to part with more money for the buckets, spades and bodyboards on display. On wet days the two pool tables at the back will keep the kids occupied for hours.

For a decent coffee head across the street to Joe’s Café, decorated in pastel-painted seating, where you can also enjoy a full Irish.

If you want to educate your kids about natural food sources you can sign up to a seashore picnic with forager Oonagh O’Dwyer of Wild Kitchen. In August you can expect dillisk tapenade served on crackers sprinkled with seaweed powder, followed by a palate-cleansing chickweed salad, a wild herb or and even sushi and nori tsukudani, a seaweed heavily flavoured using soy sauce. O’Dwyer studied organic horticulture and grew up cooking in the family establishment Ballyglass Country House in Tipperary. The picnic requires a minimum of four. Prices for adults are €20 per head and €10 for kids.

olooneys.ie, randaddys.ie, vaughanlodge.ie, barrtra.com, wildkitchen.ie

The Gallery

The current exhibition, Poetry of the West, at Kenny’s Lahinch Art Gallery, situated in Kennys Woolen Mills, shows the most recent works of artists Kate Veagan, Willie Redmond, Susan Cairns and Peg Quinlan. Ends August 27th.

lahinchartgallery.com

Activities 

Surfing and golf are the two main activities here. A one-day family lesson at Lahinch Surf School costs €120, for two adults and two kids, while kids and teen camps cost €100 for five days. At Lahinch Surf Experience adults are €35 and children €25 per lesson with kids camps €90 per week. Green fees for the old course at the world class Lahinch Golf Club cost €140.  

On rainy days kids from ages six to 16 will love the Commando Run, an inflatable obstacle course at Seaworld that is open from 2pm to 3pm on weekdays.

While they let off steam you can take a dive class at the Dive Academy. Situated within the same complex, a beginners lesson, which lasts 40 to 60 minutes, costs €30. Moher Hill Farm has Vietnamese pot bellied pigs, llamas, ostriches, miniature donkeys, falabella ponies and other animals that will distract the kids for a couple of hours. 

While here you should also take in a trad session in Doolin, explore and lunar landscape of the Burren and go underground at Ailwee Cave but if the weather stays fine you won’t want to get into your car at all.Don’t leave this part of the world without paying your respects to the Cliffs of Moher, said to be some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and nearby Liscannor.

lahinchsurfschool.com, lahinchsurfexperience.com, lahinchgolf.com, lahinchseaworld.com, diveacademt.info, moherfarm.com

The Walk

“You can’t say you’ve really been here until you’ve walked the promenade and kicked the wall at the end,” says McCarthy. You can also loop out and make the return journey back in along the perimeter of the golf course.

Where you might catch someone’s eye 

If you want to pick up a surfer head to the White Horse sessions at Kenny’s bar. You’ll have to shout to be heard.

Souvenirs to bring home

A taut core – the result of all those surf lessons. 

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